More detailed reports are filtering in this afternoon after a SpaceX rocket exploded in a violent fireball earlier this morning at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The Falcon 9 spacecraft was undergoing a scheduled refueling procedure and static fire testing on Launch Complex 40 in preparatiion for a Saturday launch when some malfunction or accident occurred, resulting in the complete loss of the $60 million Falcon 9 rocket and its satellite cargo. Watch this dramatic video captured by the disabled veteran run group USLaunchReport.
At just after 9 a.m. EST, witnesses heard and felt a series of strong concussive explosions at the nearby Kennedy Space Center, with a visible pillar of smoke rising into the Florida sky. No injuries were reported, but the dollar value of the payload alone, a Facebook-backed commercial satellite destined to provide Internet service to sub-Saharan Africa, was reported to be $200 million. SpaceX has confirmed that the Amos-6 communications satellite owned by Israel's Spacecom was completely destroyed.
Here's what SpaceX CEO Elon Musk had to share after the devastating day:
Static fire tests are routine pre-launch activities that SpaceX normally performs as a countdown rehearsal to fuel the booster and culminates in a short firing of the rocket's Merlin main engines, while the craft remains safely clamped down to the pad.
Facebook was hoping to utilize a portion of the satellite's capacity to broaden its Internet.org program in Africa. CEO Mark Zuckerberg was actually in Kenya today touting the satellite's cultural and connective benefits in anticipation of the weekend launch.
"I'm deeply disappointed to hear that SpaceX's launch failure destroyed our satellite that would have provided connectivity to so many entrepreneurs and everyone else across the continent," said Zuckerberg in a post on his Facebook page. "We remain committed to our mission of connecting everyone, and we will keep working until everyone has the opportunities this satellite would have provided."
It's always a sad day when one of these sleek candles goes up in flames. More facts will continue to tumble in as the investigation progresses but this massive mishap will no doubt cause significant delays to SpaceX's upcoming launch schedule.